Do You Remember the Vanderpoel Castle?

The Vanderpoel Castle was built in 1885 and used to stand on the border between Chatham and Summit Credits: Summit Historical Society
The Vanderpoel Castle was demolished in 1969 Credits: Summit Historical Society

Did you know…

that there once stood a castle just beyond the Passaic River Bridge on the border of Summit and Chatham, at the interchange between Route 24, River Road and JFK Parkway?

It was called Vanderpoel Castle, built in 1885 by George Vanderpoel as a summer residence for his family. The castle sat on a sprawling 15-acre parcel of land that ran along the Passaic River.  Fearful of intruders or possible kidnapping, the Vanderpoel’s built a high stone wall around their home and hired round-the-clock guards who logged 17 miles per twelve-hour shift, patrolling the property against fire and prowlers. The sight of a guard keeping watch over the property added to the intrigue of a castle perched on a riverbank on the outskirts of town.

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George’s son Ambrose, who was a bit of a recluse, never married and lived in the castle until the time of his death in 1940.  His assets were estimated to be between $2 and $3 million at the time of his death. Ambrose left the property including the red brick castle to the Masonic Home and Charity Foundation of Burlington, NJ.  Two years later, the Masons sold the castle and most of the property to Victor F. Zahodiakin Engineering Corp. for $24,000.

Where the Vanderpoel stables had stood, Victor Zahodiakin built a manufacturing plant where his company produced mechanical devices and precision instruments used during World War II. The Zahodiakin’s divided the castle into 3 apartments: household staff lived in the basement level, business offices and employees occupied the first floor, and the second floor was the family living quarters.  The third floor was unused.  During wartime, the plant employed more that 200 people.  By the early 1950’s, manufacturing was discontinued and only a few employees remained.

Former Summit resident Ken Loderick remembers playing at the castle with his childhood friend Sergei Zahodiakin.  Ken has fond memories of Mrs. Zahodiakin walking the children up several flights of metal spiral stairs and through a hatch, which would put them on the roof of the tallest tower of the castle.  Peering through the crenellations, Ken recalls the views of the Passaic River Valley were spectacular.  Altman’s, which was the anchor store at the then open-air Short Hills Mall, figured prominently in the view.  He also remembers a broad screened-in porch running along the back of the castle, offering sweeping views of the river.

In 1969, the Zahodiakin’s sold the property to the New Jersey Highway Department. Shortly thereafter, the castle was demolished to make way for the Rt. 24 access ramp.

Local color is written by Sharon Knightly, who grew up in Chatham Township and returned years later with her husband, Jack, to raise their family here.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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